Commentary: Sanford should stay in office

The people calling for Gov. Mark Sanford's resignation — from The New York Times to state Sen. Jake Knotts — either want to ensure that Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer wins the 2010 gubernatorial election or else haven't thought through the effect this could have on the outcome of that crucial race.

Reasonable people can disagree over whether it would be better to have Mr. Sanford or Mr. Bauer in the governor's office for the next 18 months. And if Mr. Bauer were not running for governor, this might be a more difficult call. But Mr. Bauer is running for governor, and it simply is not responsible to overlook the tremendous advantage he would have if he were able to use the bully pulpit of that office for the next year.

The idea of handing any candidate such a huge advantage is particularly dangerous right now, given the importance of next year's elections. Our state has deep problems, and we have spent six and a half years treading water rather than solving them. (The Legislature shares blame for this, but that's neither here nor there.) It's hard to remember a time when our state has been in more desperate need of strong, focused leadership, to set us to building a stronger economy and a better-educated citizenry. Although this could change in the coming year, to this point Mr. Bauer simply has not demonstrated that he has the vision to lead our state.

Nor is it responsible to overlook what we know about Mr. Bauer as a person. Mr. Sanford acted in a grossly irresponsible way for one week. Mr. Bauer’s fits of irresponsibility and self-dealing have been a hallmark of his tenure: He intimidated the Transportation Department into paying him more than double its original offer for a sliver of land to widen a highway, and then "forgot" to report that sale as required by law. He barreled down Columbia's Assembly Street at speeds up to 60 mph, running two red lights and so startling a police officer that he felt the need to pull a gun on Mr. Bauer. He used a police radio to try to call off troopers when he was driving 101 mph on his way home from a political event in a state car and, when that failed, escaped without even a warning by making the trooper think he was a high-ranking law enforcement officer. Even before he was elected, he sent out campaign flyers designed to make it look like all the GOP gubernatorial candidates had endorsed him (they had not), and then bragged about his trickery.

To read the complete editorial, visit The State (Columbia, S.C.).